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Friday, September 14, 2012

First-rate first mate

Huddleston teenager spends her spare time helping her dad restore a boat.

Across from a gleaming model boat perched on a wall in a Huddleston home sits a small wooden figurine with neither embellishment nor detail. The object was made by a 4-year-old, who now, at the age of 16, continues to show an aptitude for working with her hands.

Lily Garrecht, a senior at Staunton River High School in Moneta, is helping her father, Bill, reconstruct an almost 60-year-old pleasure boat, a two-year endeavor that has involved hours of sanding, scraping and sawing and the removal of thousands of tiny screws.

As a child, Bill Garrecht spent summers at the Greenwood Lake, N.Y., home of his grandparents, an experience that drew him to the craftsmanship of older objects. With adulthood came marriage to his wife, Sue, and later, the arrival of their daughter Lily, who at an early age demonstrated a fondness for the outdoor lifestyle and physical activity.

"Ever since I was really little, I came outside with my dad," she said.

An electrician by trade, Garrecht would work on cars in his spare time. While her father worked in the garage tinkering under a vehicle, Lily would be stretched out beside him.

A visit to Smith Mountain Lake precipitated the family's move from Long Island to Huddleston in 2005. Now "semi-retired," Garrecht needed something to occupy his time."[I] built models, and the models got bigger and bigger," he said.

Already owning one antique boat, Garrecht purchased another - a wooden 1955 Chris - Craft Capri - in 2010. It was just a hull, Garrecht said, hanging in a friend's barn, "but it was all there."

Lily, who doesn't enjoy confining herself inside, and whose prowess in track and field earned her the moniker "Leaping Lily," was was all there, too.

The father-and-daughter team averages 10 to 15 hours a week working on the 19-foot boat. The Capri needs a total restoration, and to do so, Garrecht bought wood three times the thickness of the existing planks. He then removes each board from the boat and makes a replica to fit its exact specifictions using the new wood.

It's a painstaking process, with one plank amassing a week's labor, he said.

"You got to have perseverance. I don't know if there's any [other] skill involved."

Lily helps her father with tasks from cleaning up sawdust to removing screws. She doesn't need to be pressed to help out, Garrecht said.

"Anything she can, she does."

Major tasks such as sawing are assigned to her dad, but Lily occasionally takes umbrage to being doled more menial duties.

"She gets mad when I don't let her do anything important," said Garrecht.

The hundreds of tiny wooden plugs necessary for the ship's integrity were made, one by one, by Lily. Each plug is color-coordinated with the grain of the boat's new planking before being glued into place.

But some chores cannot be managed by father or daughter alone.

When Garrecht needed a hand in turning the Capri over in an effort to reach the boat's underbelly, about 25 members of the Smith Mountain Lake Chapter of the Antique and Classic Boat Society showed up to lend a hand.

"The Antique Boat club are a bunch of real beautiful people," said Garrecht. "I couldn't have done half of this without them."

The body and sides of the Capri are now complete, and the duo are in the process of restoring the deck. Garrecht said it will be an additional year or two of work before the boat is seaworthy.

Whether he will be able to rely on the assistance of his daughter is uncertain. The family has begun visiting colleges; Lily wants to become a radiologist.

"I want her to go to college," her father said. "But she'd be a good electrician."

SML Antique & Classic Boat Show and Festival

What: 22nd annual boat display by the SML Chapter of the Antique and Classic Boat Society. Includes boat display and parade, vendors, custom car display, a youth judging event, a seminar by Dave VanNess of VanNess Engineering.

When: Saturday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Where: Mariners Landing Resort and Conference Center, 1217 Graves Harbor Trail, Huddleston

Cost: Free; no charge for parking

Information: woodenboats.net